Weight Training Tips

helpful tips note

There are several weight training tips and guidelines designed for all strength trainers to incorporate into their weight training routines to ensure that they maximize their efforts and minimize their probability of injury.

It is important to understand that regularly performing a weight training routine in which heavy amounts of weight are used creates a high level of stress on the joints that are utilized during the exercise. Joint sensitivity and injury is typically the most common injury reported within this exercise category. For this reason, beginning weight trainers need to learn the proper form for each exercise, and combine muscle groups and exercises in such a way that they minimize the stress on their joints.

Provided below are several weight training tips that can be implemented to ensure an effective weight training program that maximizes your overall effectiveness and allows you to set and achieve your personal weight training goals:

    Define and Plan Your Weight Training Program

    Take the time to learn the various muscle groups and how each is intended to function. The next step is to learn the various exercises that can be performed for each muscle group and how each exercise works the muscle group. Certain exercises are designed to increase lean muscle mass and strength, while others are designed primarily to add definition to the muscle.

    Other questions to ask yourself when defining your weight training program include the following:

    • How many days do I intend to weight train per week?

    • In general, how many minutes will it take me to complete each of my weight training sessions?

    • Am I going to primarily use free weights, circuit weight training machines, or a combination of both?

    • Am I going to perform my weight training routines at a fitness center or at home?

    • Am I going to perform my weight training routine with a partner?

    • Do I have any past injuries that I need to take into consideration when defining my exercise routine?

    • What muscle groups am I going to combine and exercise in each weight training session?

    • What are my personal weight training goals and what do I ultimately what to accomplish?

    Once you have successfully answered each of the previous questions and any others that come to mind, it is time to define your personal weight training goals.

    Define Your Weight Training Goals

    Setting your personal weight training goals is one of the most important aspects of your weight training program. By setting your weight training goals, you are defining your road map to the body that you want to have in the future. As you consider your goals, it is important to remember that it takes time to transform your body, so be sure that your goals are realistic and attainable within the timeframe that you set. In addition, be sure that each short and long-term goal you set is measurable and has a specific date on which you intend to achieve the goal.

    Maintain an Accurate Weight Training Log

    weight training log

    Utilizing a weight training log to record virtually every aspect of your weight training routine will allow you to monitor your progress, evaluate your overall weight training approach, and determine whether you are on schedule to achieve each of your personal weight training goals.

    In the event that you find you are falling behind on achieving a personal weight training goal, you can review your entries in your weight training log to better understand why, and make the necessary modifications to get back on schedule.

    Below are several items to consider entering into your weight training log:

    • Each exercise performed divided by muscle group

    • The number of sets, repetitions, and the amount of weight used for each set

    • If performing maximum single repetition exercises, record your maximum weight levels

    • The duration of each workout

    • The physical measurements of each muscle area/group (i.e. chest, upper arms, upper legs, etc.)

    • Your body weight

    • Your percentage of body fat

    • Your daily dietary intake (i.e. foods, total number of calories, amount of fat in grams or as a percentage)

    Depending on how you view the importance of a weight training log, you can pick and choose the items that you will track on a daily basis. Some individuals may elect to track all of the previous items and also calculate their percentage gain on a monthly basis. For example, you may see value in calculating the percentage gain for each of the exercises that you perform a maximum single repetition on. By doing so, you may find that your maximum single repetitions on a few exercises are lagging in terms of percentage gain. If this is the case, you can modify your exercise routine for that specific muscle group to increase the rate with which you obtain your strength gains.

    Develop and Strengthen Your Structural Foundation

    The first step for beginning weight trainers is to strengthen their structural foundation, also defined as your overall mass strength level. There are several exercise types per muscle group that are designed to accomplish this. For instance, the flat barbell bench press is designed to increase the mass strength of your chest. The barbell bench squat is designed to increase not only your overall structural strength, but your lower back and leg strength as well. As another example, the standing barbell curl is designed to increase your overall biceps strength.

    There are various mass strength exercises that can be performed for each muscle group. While it's important to perform multiple exercise types per muscle group, you should place a high level of importance on developing your structural frame and increasing the mass strength of each muscle group.

    Focus on Intensity and Speed

    It's important that you perform each and every weight training session with a reasonable level of intensity. By doing so, you will help to ensure that you obtain your personal weight training goals within the timeframe you have specified. However, when performing your weight training routine, you will have days where you feel better, more energized and more focused in comparison to other days.

    You will also want to pay attention to the actual speed with which you perform a single repetition for each exercise. For example, on explosive exercises such as the flat barbell bench press, you will want to control the bar as it moves toward your chest and explode as you push the bar away from your chest. Another type of speed that you need to monitor is the amount of time you spend resting in between sets.

    Allow Adequate Rest Between Sets

    rest between weight training sets

    The amount of time that you spend resting in between sets can vary depending on the weight training routine and the equipment that you are using.

    Performing a machine circuit training routine, in which you exercise all muscle groups in a single session, typically involves resting very little and progressing through the entire circuit at a fairly rapid pace.

    On the other hand, when performing exercises with a heavy amount of weight and low number of repetitions, resting for a longer period of time to allow the muscles to recover is required.

    In addition, when aggressively exercising the larger muscle groups (i.e. legs, back, chest) you will find that you require more rest than when exercising the smaller muscle groups (i.e. biceps, triceps, etc.).

    Reasonable rest periods between sets are as follows:

    • 1 to 3 repetitions: 3 to 5 minutes
    • 4 to 10 repetitions: 1 to 2 minutes
    • 10 to 15 repetitions: 15 to 60 seconds

    Learn to Listen to Your Body

    It is important to learn to listen to your body because regular weight training will place a high level of stress on your joints, muscles, ligaments, tendons and structural frame. For this reason, it is imperative that you know the difference between good pain and bad pain. While muscle soreness is a common occurrence when weight lifting, joint pain should not be.

    As you become more in tune with your body, you will want to ensure that you take a break when you feel that the pain goes beyond normal muscle soreness. It will also be important to understand what is causing the pain. In many instances, there may a certain exercise that causes discomfort to a specific joint. In this case, you may want to consider eliminating that exercise from your workout routine and replacing it with another exercise type.

    Vary Your Weight Training Workouts

    To increase the rate at which you make gains in lean muscle mass and strength, you will want to vary the exercise types and sequence in which you perform them. Performing the exact same weight training routine for each muscle group over a long period of time will allow the muscles to become accustomed to the routine, and your gains will begin to slow.

    By varying the exercise types that you perform per muscle group, you will force your body to continually adjust to the new demands you are placing on it. For individuals that weight train 3 to 6 times per week, it is common to modify their weight training routine every 4 to 8 weeks.

    Always Perform a Warm-Up and Stretching Routine

    It is important to do a quick cardiovascular warm-up and a light stretching routine before you begin each weight training session. The warm-up routine increases your body temperature and increases the flow of blood and oxygen throughout your entire body. The stretching routine forces additional blood and oxygen into all soft tissue and prepares the muscles for exercise. Typical warm-up exercises include riding an exercise bike, walking or jogging on a treadmill, jumping rope or using an elliptical, and should be preformed before the stretching routine for approximately 5 to 10 minutes. Typical stretching routines should take 10 to 15 minutes to complete and should stretch all major muscle groups.

    Allow Your Muscles to Receive Adequate Rest

    adequate rest for the muscles after weight training sessions

    There are two types of rest periods to consider when allowing your muscles to adequately rest and recover. The first is allowing your muscles to recover from a single workout session. For example, after performing a workout session in which you exercised your chest, back and biceps, you will want to allow 24 to 48 hours to elapse before you exercise them again. This will allow those specific muscle groups time to repair the muscle tissue that was damaged during their workout.

    In fact, approximately 95% of muscle development that occurs will be achieved during the recovery periods in between workouts, while the other 5% of muscle development occurs during the actual weight training workout.

    The second rest period to consider is after you have completed an 8 to 10-week weight training cycle. After aggressively performing your weight training routine for 8 to 10 weeks, it is a good idea to allow your entire body to recover for several days to an entire week.

    This will allow your muscles to fully recover and ready themselves for the next 8 to 10-week weight training cycle. This is also a good time to consider modifying the exercises that you perform for each muscle group as well.

    Monitor Your Nutritional Habits

    It is important to maintain a balanced dietary intake consisting of nutritious, whole foods. Aggressively and regularly performing a weight training routine will place additional nutritional demands on your body. To this end, you will want to focus on consuming foods that are nutritionally rich, in the correct portions, and at the correct times.

    Even if you are trying to lose weight, remember that your body needs more food to generate the energy to perform your weight training workouts. Rather than reducing you caloric intake, replace empty calories with nutritious ones and allow the workout itself to burn fat from your body. Remember, carbohydrates are the preferred source of energy for the body. Once depleted, the body will turn to protein as its energy source. This, in turn, will reduce the amount of overall protein that you are able to supply to your muscle tissue.

    Maintain Confidence and Enthusiasm

    Enthusiasm is the result of thorough preparation and variety. Believe in yourself and be proud of the fact that you made a commitment to improve your overall health, fitness and mental well-being through physical activity. Make sure that you define your initial short-term goals to be reasonable, attainable and relatively easy to accomplish (i.e. to perform your weight training routine 3 days per week, to learn how to perform each exercise correctly, etc.). This will set you up for success and for the challenge of achieving your other short and long-term goals. In addition, focus on your overall approach to your fitness routine and do not be afraid to modify your routine wherever you see fit.

    Maintain a High Level of Focus, Intensity and Effort

    In order to effectively build new lean muscle tissue and strength, you will need to perform your weight training routine with regularity, focus and intensity. Lean muscle tissue will not increase just because you want it to - rather, you will need to force your muscle to grow in density. This is where a weight training log may be of value, since you can enter the number of sets, the weight used, and the number of repetitions performed for each exercise. This will allow you to look back over your previous workouts to determine if you are making gains in strength and endurance.

    In order to significantly increase your strength level, you will need to perform each exercise to failure, or near failure. This is where it becomes important to understand the difference between good pain (fatigue) and bad pain.

    Utilize Multiple Measuring Methods and Devices

    multiple weight training measuring methods

    There are several methods and devices that you can use to monitor your progress. The first is a weight training log. By entering the exercises that you perform, as well as the number of sets, weight and repetitions that you perform per exercise, you will be able to evaluate whether you are increasing your strength level for each muscle group. Other forms of measuring devices include the tape measure and body weight scale. Use the tape measure to measure your chest, neck, back, upper arms, forearms, waist, hips, thighs and calves. If your goal is to increase muscle size and density, then you should expect to see increases in your measurements.

    In addition, you can utilize a body weight scale to determine if you are gaining or losing weight. Remember that lean muscle tissue by volume weighs more than fat. For individuals that have a goal of losing body weight through performing a weight training routine, it is important to understand that their body measurements are the most important indicators of their progress.

    In many cases, an individual may only lose 5 to 8 pounds of total body weight while losing a total of 8 inches in their body measurements. This may be due to the fact that they are replacing excess body fat with lean muscle tissue. The bottom line is that if you are happy with the overall appearance of your physique and each of your body measurements, body weight may not be important.

    An additional measuring device is the skinfold caliper. A skinfold caliper is used to calculate the percentage of body fat at various locations throughout the body. Again, if you are satisfied with your body measurements and your percentage of body fat, a body weight scale will be unnecessary.

    It is recommended that you monitor your physical results on a 30-day basis. This will allow your body the time necessary to transform itself. By monitoring each body part, you will be able to compare the changes from month to month to determine which areas are responding to your weight training routine and which areas are not. For example, when comparing previous to past measurements, you may determine that your thighs are not producing the same percentage gain as your chest and/or upper arms. In the event this occurs, you may want to modify your weight training routine for your legs.

    Incorporate a Cardiovascular Exercise Routine

    Complementing your weight training routine with some form of cardiovascular exercise is an excellent approach to improving your overall level of health and fitness, especially if one of your personal fitness goals is to lose weight. Regularly performing a cardiovascular exercise routine will increase your caloric expenditure and promote a greater caloric deficit. The end result is a faster rate of weight loss. In addition, cardiovascular exercise will rush nutrients and repairing enzymes to your muscle tissue faster than weight training will. This promotes muscle repair, and muscle repair equals muscle growth.

    Vary Your Weight Training Workout Times

    When first beginning a weight training routine, you may want to consider performing your workouts at different times throughout the day. The intent of this approach is to determine the ideal time for you to work out. For instance, you may find that if you work out in the morning before work you have a higher level of energy, greater focus and greater intensity compared to working out after work. By determining your best time to work out, you will ensure that your workouts are productive and efficient, and that you achieve your personal weight training goals in the shortest possible time.

    happy weight training couple

    Regularly performing a weight training program is not only enjoyable, but an excellent way to improve your health, fitness and mental well-being. In fact, it is out belief that all fitness routines should include some form of regular strength training.

    In other words, the benefits derived from regularly strength training are essential for overall good health and fitness and, in our opinion, should be part of every fitness routine.

    However, to receive the maximum benefits from your weight training routine or any other exercise routine, it is important to regularly perform your exercise routine and ensure that you are consuming a healthy and nutritious diet.

    In addition, for individuals that are just beginning their weight training routine, it is important to learn to perform each of the exercises with the correct form to maximize efficiency and minimize the risk of injury. Weight training should be viewed as a lifelong endeavor, and not something that you perform for a short period of time.